here come a few note worthy moments in our lives where we must ask ourselves a tough question. It could be financial, employment or relationship related, a crossroads of your life kinda question. Actually the question part is rather easy, it’s the answer, our decision, that we struggle with.
In Acts 19 Paul meets “disciples” from the church of Ephesus. It doesn’t take long before he realizes they’ve never been baptized in the name of Jesus and therefore they knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. They knew of Jesus but didn’t know his saving grace. Without going into detail, biblical scholars debate as to wether these men were Christians. Regardless, after hearing Paul speak they were baptized in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. This wasn’t a tough decision for them as they already thirsted for salvation.
I would venture to guess life in 2016 is a little more complicated than what it was back then, yet this question still remains for all. Have you accepted Jesus as your savior? I’ll go one better, WILL you accept Jesus as your savior? You say you believe in God, you may or may not go to church, you classify yourself as a good person but here’s the deal, none of that matters. I struggled with this for years as I knew some of the things I was doing didn’t have a place in this life. I thought I would be missing out. That is a lie! To accept his son, God doesn’t ask us to lay our behaviors aside. Jesus meets us as far as we’ll go to meet him and he begins the process of our transformation from the inside out.
Back to our Ephesian friends, these men sensed the need to get right with God. They felt an urging to go deeper and turn their life over to Jesus. I too experienced that feeling but chose to ignore it for many years. If you are being reminded of Jesus in any way, know that you too are being called. Knowing what I know now, answering that call will be the best decision you’ll ever make. Acts 19:2 – And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
I’d like to think that I am a fairly smart guy. Going back to my school years I made decent grades but I could have done better. One of the areas I struggled with was math. I know the reason is that I had no desire to learn or sometimes even listen to what was being taught. I saw no benefit in learning it. So I guess I fit into the, “you can lead a horse to water ……” Category. If our hearts aren’t in something the likelihood of fully grasping it is pretty slim.
As Paul continued his ministry into Corinth, like all cities he entered, he went to the synagogue to bring the message of Jesus. He was once again met with resistance from the Jewish contingency. They had chased him from 3 other cities and this must of been his proverbial last straw. From that point forward he didn’t refuse Jews but since their hearts were not open to the message of Jesus, he turned his focus to converting Gentiles.
In our own journey to bring the message of Jesus to friends, family and stranger alike, it is God who prepares hearts. Deliverance begins with desire. You will never argue your way to conveying the message of Jesus to another. You can’t debate salvation to it’s fruition. You can be aware of the message you send to others by your own actions. We should never have to force the issue of salvation. When the time is right for an opportunity to share Jesus, rest assured God will present it. Acts 18:5 – When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
One perceived stigma of being a Christian is doubt. I say perceived because I truly don’t think you’re being honest with yourself if you say you’ve never doubted. However, that’s another devotional …….. Today we face an ever growing opposition to the Message of Jesus. There are days that I think I’m in Bizzaro world, up is down, left is right, right is wrong and so on. Discouraging to say the least, right? WRONG!!!
As Paul and Silas continued their mission they entered and preached the Message of Jesus in Thessalonica. They reached many Greeks and Jews, so much that some of the leaders gathered a mob to chase them from the city. When they could not find Paul and Silas they instead brought forth some of the people they befriended to receive punishment. Their activity drew more than attention from those who chose not to believe.
The opposition we face is much the same. If the Message of Jesus was without substance why would anyone waste their time to oppose it? If didn’t matter, why are there countless groups that work everyday to dissuade others from believing? The simple answer is something we already know. God is! Jesus, his son came to die for our sins on the cross. The Holy Spirit exists to equip us in this life. Yes, it’s all true! So if today you doubt, know that’s just part of your growth in Christ. Then look to the opposition and smile, as he came to die for them as well. Acts 17:6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
How many times have your plans been derailed? If you’re like me, more than I can count. How many times has that set of circumstances turned out for the better?
As Paul continued his ministry he became acquainted with Timothy and ask that he join him. Paul had planned to continue west into Asia Minor but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go there. However, he was equally prompted to go into Macedonia and continue his ministry there. The scriptures tell of two notable conversions on this journey. One of a girl named Lydia, whom God had already prepared her heart for accepting Jesus. The other a guard who was watching over Paul and Timothy after they were put in prison. His conversion was much different as he had to be dramatically introduced to the power of God. God had bigger plans for Paul and Timothy as both of these encounters worked to change many other lives.
This chapter demonstrates how little control we really have in our life. God continually orchestrates our paths and their intersection with others. The missionary David Livingstone summarized the spirit of Paul when he said, “I am prepared to go anywhere, so long as it is forward.” We should adopt this spirit as it truly is a statement of trust in God’s plan for our lives. So the next time your plans change for a seemingly inexplicable reason be encouraged and excited, for it is God working in your life.
Acts 16:6 – And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
A few years back I was at a business conference and the buzz phrase that came out of this meeting was, “paradigm shift”. It’s one of those fancy white collar terms that means, “things are fixin’ to change”, and you might wanna get on board.
As the disciples continued to spread the message of Jesus some of the converted Jewish leaders still felt it necessary for any gentile to adopt Jewish rituals and beliefs. The problem wasn’t with the new gentile believers, it laid directly at the feet of the Jewish converts. They still felt it necessary to hold on to some of their old traditions. To know and follow the law of Moses was at the top of this list. They still had not fully bought into the fact that with Jesus’ sacrifice they were made clean. The Gentiles were new to all of this so they were understandably confused.
Here’s the good news, other than confessing your sins and believing that he came to die for all men, Jesus has and never will make knowing him conditional. He takes us as we are and only asks us to know him more. If we do this in earnest, the changes come from within. Therein lies the paradigm shift of what some religions will proclaim. Outward practices of religion are just that and rarely serve to bring us closer to God. Other than a willing heart and faith in his Son, God makes no distinction on who may come to know and be with him. Whether you are a curious bystander, new believer or religious fanatic, knowing Him more may be the paradigm shift you’ve been looking for! Acts 15:11 – But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Let me preface this Devotional by saying I respect the work the following people did while they were with us and my hope is that they had a personal relationship with Jesus.
This past week was filled with news of “celebrity” deaths. These were people that many consider icons of a certain period of time. Certainly when you think of Farrah Fawcett, “the 70’s” can easily be part of your next thought. No one disputes Michael Jackson’s contribution to the world of music and to music videos. These people and the others who have passed on contributed to their field of work. Consider this, is their contribution more important than what you do on a daily basis in your field of work or for example what a Teacher or Fireman does?
Because these people are part of “pop culture” they are made to be larger than life, more important than that Fireman and sadly more important than Jesus. We can pass this off and just say it’s part of our society, but isn’t that the bigger issue? Our society puts more emphasis on “Pop Culture” than it does on Christ. The one that is there for us from dawn to dusk, day after day, week after week and we would rather watch another hour of Michael Jackson coverage than read our Bibles. If we gave Christ half of the time we devote to worldly things our lives would change immeasurably.
So who or possibly what do you “idolize”? Pop-culture is all about what’s hot! Today’s superstars are tomorrow’s has-beens. The newest fads and clothes are yesterday news in a month or two . . . so what ever it is, if it’s taking time away from your relationship with Jesus isn’t it time to “reconnoiter” your schedule and spend some time with the one who will always be on the top of the charts
2 Kings 17:41a – Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols.
As I write this I am on a bus with 35 Jr. High School Students. We our on our way to Missouri for a mission trip to rehab a couple of homes. Along with the 35 kids are 8 adults. One of them is my friend Jason, we’ve been serving together since last fall. Jason leads a very busy life. He owns a construction company that performs a wide range of services, from backyard patios to a complete home. Jason has a wife and two young boys, in addition to serving as a youth coach he is a decision counselor and an usher at our church. My point here is that Jason leads a very busy life. Our Jr. High Minister
specifically asked Jason to come on this trip because of his knowledge in the construction business. His experience would be an invaluable asset in our task to lead the kids in the repairs and painting of these homes. As luck would have it, as this date approached Jason’s company (Jason) became very busy with jobs to be performed. With the economy being what it is . . . . to be a busy construction company is certainly a blessing.
Jason had every reason in the world to bow out of this trip and as he told me, even considered such. Then his wife handed him the above verse. Even with his responsibilities at home and his business, his wife new that the work that we were to be doing this week was far more important. With that said, the above verse assures us that any work we do for the Lord will be justly rewarded. When you consider all the good Jason will do this week by putting some things on hold it exemplifies the Christ like behavior of serving others first. Certainly this summer offers you an opportunity to serve in some capacity. Sure you’re busy . . . . but are you any busier than Jason? The opportunities abound for you to
change someone’s life forever and the best part of it all is that you will be rewarded 10 times over. What or WHO will you impact this summer?
1 Cor 15:58 – Therefore, my brothers be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Can you remember a person that had a positive impact on your life? maybe a coach, a teacher, hopefully a parent. Through our lives we encounter scores of people who “teach” us how to live our lives. Some more directly than others but we all process what we see on a daily basis, good, bad or indifferent. Some of this goes in and right back out but when we are exposed to a specific person for a long period of time we certainly learn from them. Now think about a person that impacted your life negatively. This could have been the kid down the street that always got you in trouble a co-worker that yells a lot or anyone in between. You can also look at this as how we see those around us. Do you respect this person
or that person and learn from their behavior or do you try and keep a distance from them? Whether you realize it or not your children, your business associates & your neighbors are observing how you live your life. Are you a Mentor to those around you? Titus 2:7 – In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness. Or are you setting a different example? Proverbs 26:4 – Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Which one of these people are you? Do you live your life as it is being observed? Not in a materialistic “look at what I’m doing today” way, but in a caring, God fearing way that sets a positive example for everyone you come in contact with.
In all we do, in all we say, we set an example every day . . . .
2 Tim 2:1-2 – You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
When we were young much of what happened to us was closely monitored by our parents. There was an inherent feeling of comfort with Mom & Dad nearby. When we fell and skinned a knee or some other life shattering event happened, we could run to our parents and they would make it “all better”. As we grew older and started venturing out on our own who was always there to rescue us or prevent us from making huge mistakes? . . . Our parents.
Whether you know or accept this to be true, God is watching over everything that goes on in your life. Think about a time when you were about to, or actually did something stupid and/or wrong and for whatever reason you emerged unscathed. There are way too many of those in my past! However, I can look back on those moments now and know that even though I wasn’t looking out for my self or my friends God was watching over us just as he did with you. This happened because God has a plan for YOUR life.
Now just as your parents did, God might have a little repercussion planned for you, if you blatantly ignore him and live for yourself and your needs.
When you put your life in God’s hands and trust in him implicitly, then you are freed to live life to fullest. When you veer off the “right path”, God will be there to catch you when you fall, just as your parents did when you were a child. PSA 121:7-8 – The Lord will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore
Memorial Day, Like most things in life we tend to take this day for granted. It’s a day where we get together with friends and “kick-off” the summer by firing up the grill. I sat behind a young couple in church this morning. As is customary in our church, the pastor recognized any serving military personnel along with their families and last, but not least, the families that have lost loved ones while serving in the armed forces. The young man and his wife were obviously very affected by the latter recognition. I’d like to think I’m about as patriotic as the next guy, but when I saw this unfold in front of me, it really sank into what this day means to those who have lost a parent, spouse or sibling. Then I thought that this person that they were mourning also fought for me. Every person killed in action since the Revolutionary War died for you and me. They died to give me the right to sit here and write this. They died for you to have the right to read this and hit delete if you don’t like it. An American Soldier dies almost every day and we just go about our business taking the freedom that
he or she was fighting for, for granted. It’s almost shameful that we only honor them once a year.
So what can we do to honor them 24/7/365? Paul wrote in Galations 5:13 – You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. It is only fitting that we honor our fallen heroes by using the liberty, first granted to us by God himself, to serve others. If we would all give just one hour a week to serve I’m confident our world would dramatically change. So did you put out your Flag today? Great start . . . . now find a cause you can wrap your heart around and truly honor those who have given everything for YOU . . . . by serving! John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.